Swansea Bar is a fantastic place for kayakers. Since it is only a few metres deep, it is susceptible to every wind change and since the bar itself is sand, it also presents a fluid and unpredictable environment not only for kayakers but for all types of marine craft. The last two days I’ve been paddling the bar and it has delivered a diverse range of conditions that vary from a gentle half metre swell to something like a commercial washing machine.
On Saturday, I paddled solo up the Swansea channel and onto the bar. A light nor’ easter was blowing and the conditions were bumpy but pretty easy. I went a little out to sea to avoid the cross current up the coast then into Blacksmiths Beach to do some surfing. After some play and a rest I walked onto the Blackies Breakwall to find the wind was up and the bar was now quite tumultuous. This would have left me stranded as I had to cross it to get to my car so I had little choice but to stay or cross. I crossed and received a pretty bouncy welcome. Concentration was intense but I stayed calm and kept up a good pace until I got inside the channel and calm water. The scary thing is not so much the rough water but how exhausted you get trying to cross. One slip and you are in trouble.
Today, Dobbo and I paddled up the channel again where we caught up with Phil Thompson and Selim Teczan. Phil was finishing for the day and left so the three of us went out to Moon Island, crossing the bar again. Incoming paddlers told us the conditions were flat and they were. We rock-hopped around the Island and were met by Owen and Anne in their Mirages. The five of us sat in our boats on the bar for a chat then went off to Blacksmiths Beach for some ‘surfing’. Or would have had there been any so we sat around having lunch watching a surfing school and a jet-ski clan do their stuff. After about forty minutes we left and the bar was now very savage which heightened the senses and focused the mind. Waves were breaking on us at every angle but constant paddling and feeling the sea got us through and into a horrid Westerly which made to trip home a real grind.
That’s the bar for you and we only copped it when it was messy. When it’s really angry it can take down some very large vessels and do incredible damage. For kayakers, it is a marvelous place to practice rough sea skills. If the worst happens and you are tipped out and separated from your boat you can make it to either north or south breakwall. You’d be battered and bruised but alive. Just inside the bar the conditions go from insanely violent to gentle within a couple of metres, such is the shape of the channel floor. You can sit in complete calm and then make a foray into the rough then surf back out. Jet-skis love the place and fishermen sit in their tinnies on either side of the bar so the risk of dying there is somewhat diluted. That doesn’t mean you should underestimate it just that all local kayakers should use this great gift and respect it.